Monday, December 29, 2008

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Welcome to my End of the Year list(s)! I will start out by shirking all journalistic integrity and having two number 1s for album of the year.

10. Jack's Mannequin - The Glass Passenger
Andrew McMahon only writes good songs (the chorus to "Suicide Blonde" notwithstanding). The first few tracks are great pop songs; ballads like "Hammers and Strings" blow some Something Corporate songs out of the water. I've always liked this band more than SoCo.

9. The Matches - A Band In Hope
This band has come a long way since "Superman." The lyrics are interesting, the melodies are often counter-intuitive and complex, and really the only truly weak song on the album is "Yankee in a Chip Shop"

8. The Loved Ones - Build and Burn
Such good punk rock. I've liked everything this band has put out. I'm looking forward to their EP coming out in February.

7. Dear and the Headlights - Drunk Like Bible Times
This album wasn't anywhere near as good as Small Steps, Heavy Hooves, but songs like "I Know" prove that they've still got it in them. This band has monstrous potential.

6. Right Away, Great Captain! - The Eventually Home
Andy Hull could honestly do just about anything and I would buy it. This album is a lot quieter than Manchester Orchestra and it's been perfect listening for the last couple months of 2008. Some of my favorite Andy Hull songs are on this CD.

5. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
This album was summer. I don't think there was a single day when I wasn't blasting it at work. In conjunction with seeing them live twice in summer alone, this album helped The Hold Steady pretty much define a full season of this year.

4. Okkervil River - The Stand-Ins
What Stay Positive was to summer, The Stand-Ins was to fall. It leaked in August right as I was getting ready to go back to school and I listened to it non-stop. Listening to The Stage Names and this back to back is almost too enjoyable.

3. Why? - Alopecia
Yoni Wolf's way with words is mind boggling. The lyrics on this CD still amaze me; his rhyming patterns, his word choice, everything. The music backing him is equally as incredible. I've been listening to this one since January and I think I'll continue to for months to come.

2. The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
According to, I have listened to the Mountain Goats 1,242 times since January 1st, 2008. Thanks in large part to this album, The Mountain Goats went from a band I wouldn't skip if they came on shuffle to a band I can't go a day without listening to. I've since explored Darnielle's massive back catalog to rather overwhelming success. Yet another case where illegal downloading led me to discover and support a band.

1b. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
I've listened to this album more than any other this year. The words are permanantly on my lips; the melodies into my fingers. This band plays everything I still like about punk rock. This is honestly a flawless album.

1a. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
As I write the final words of my 2008 wrap up, this album is playing. That has been true of almost everything else I've done over the last few months. I have listened to this album almost every day since I first fell in love with it in September. I love it enough to look past the fact that he sings the word "cunt" seriously. And that would usually be a dealbreaker. "The Modern Leper" is officially my favorite song of this year, but each succeeding song on the album makes me want to reconsider. I wish I could remember how I found out about these guys. I hope it wasn't Pitchfork...

Top 9 EPs of 2008

Bands who were too lazy to put out a full length or just wrote too many songs:

9. Conor Oberst - Gentleman's Pact
Definitely better than the full length, this four song EP reminds me a little of "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" era Bright Eyes. No eagles, no poles.

8. You, Me, and Everyone We Know - So Young, So Insane
Although this one isn't quite as good as their previous EP, it's still really good. They're one of the only good pop punk bands left. A full length from them is going to be very interesting.

7. Straylight Run - Un Mas Dos
These songs are definitely different from old Straylight Run stuff aside from the fact Michelle is gone. I like the new direction; I don't like the fact that they said they're only going to be doing EPs from now on.

6. Mountain Goats - Black Pear Tree/Satanic Messiah

John Darnielle has dominated the last few months of my life and these EPs certainly helped. Neither has songs of the caliber found on Heretic Pride, but each is an enjoyable listen. Kaki King is always a plus as well.

5. Manchester Orchestra - Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind
"I Can Feel a Hot One" and "I Was a Lid" are both fantastic songs. If there was more new content, this would be higher up. Since there isn't, it just gets me very excited for their upcoming full length

4. Kevin Devine - I Could Be With Anyone
Four new songs off of his album out next year. All four are great. He could be with anyone.

3. All Get Out - All Get Out
Rounding out the Favorite Gentlemen releases is All Get Out's new EP. They were really good live and this EP captures it well. I've been listening to it a lot in the last few weeks. They're in the genre of bands that sound like Manchester Orchestra; I pretty much love all of them.

2. The Gaslight Anthem - Senor and the Queen
The Gaslight Anthem come in at number two here also. "Say I Won't (Recognize)" just isn't a strong enough song to make this EP number one. That doesn't mean I don't listen to it all the time, though.

1. Shining Through - Man Vs. Wild
This EP is really good. Equal parts Weatherbox and Bright Eyes, Shining Through makes up for a lack of output by either band this year. I hope they get big and successful or at least record a full length.

Best Albums of 2008 I Know Are Good, But Haven't Spent Enough Time With

Most of these came out in the last quarter of the year; I just haven't had enough time to really familiarize myself with them. They're in alphabetical order.

Butch Walker - Sycamore Meadows
I always like everything Butch Walker puts out. This album is no different.

Cloud Cult - Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)
Every time I've listened to this album, I've really enjoyed it. I just forget to put it on. This is one of those where I'm thankful for album shuffle.

Dillinger Four - C I V I L W A R
I will always have a weakness for this kind of punk rock. It's great when I'm in the right mood.

Fall Out Boy - Folie a Deux

I will also always have a weakness for this kind of punk rock. I've only listened to this album a few times, but Fall Out Boy definitely can still make catchy and intelligent pop music. Fuck you, Drew.

Parenthetical Girls - Entanglements
This album is so cool. The orchestral arrangements sound incredible. I can't wait to listen to this album more.

Pompeii - Nothing Happens for a Reason
This is a really good album that got overshadowed by bigger things that I got at the same time. If I had listened to it more, it could have probably been in the top 10. It just needs some time to really click.

Wild Sweet Orange - We Have Cause to Be Uneasy
This band reminds me of Manchester Orchestra and that can only ever be a good thing. I listened to this album a lot this year, but certainly not enough.

Biggest Disappointments of 2008

Because I am such a whiny, pessimistic, ungrateful person, I am going to start out with the albums I found the most disappointing in 2008. However, when you, the reader, have gotten here, you will likely read this last. Mission accomplished.

7. Tom Gabel - Heart Burns

It's sort of hard to be disappointed by something for which you already have low expectations, but at least Tom sounds like he's having fun regardless of how far back he has set the punx.

6. Alkaline Trio - Agony and Irony
Again, expectations weren't super high, but Crimson was a good album. There were some good ones on this but I knew from the moment I saw the cover art that it was going to be mediocre. The Goddammit reissue that Asian Man put out is the better Alkaline Trio release this year and I've never really liked that album. They were also pretty bad live.

5. Margot & The Nuclear So and So's - Animal/Not Animal
I could not wait for these CDs. The Dust of Retreat was an incredible album and the seven demos I had for Animal were great too. Some of the songs are great, but I was expecting a lot better. I still feel bad for liking Not Animal more than Animal. So it goes

4. Kanye West -
808's and Heartbreak

3. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
It's a good thing this "isn't a Bright Eyes album." I think this CD has some of Conor's worst lyrics (see: "Eagle on a Pole"). I guess I'll have to stop writing music that is just a cheap knockoff of Conor Oberst if this is the direction he's headed.

2. Counting Crows - Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
I got heavily into the Counting Crows in late 2007 and early 2008, which was convenient because they planned to release their first album in five years in March. While songs like "Cowboys," "1492," and "Come Around" were very good, "Los Angeles" and the great majority of the Sunday Mornings half kept it from coming close to "August and Everything After" or even "Hard Candy"

1. Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Searching for the Hows and Whys
Now that I think about it, Get Cape probably can't get any better than"The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager," but back in February I was convinced that when this album came out, it would be my top of 2008 no question. Ten months later, it's my biggest disappointment. These songs can't touch "Chronicles;" there's just no contest. Maybe it's just something with English punks turned singer-songwriters this year, because Frank Turner's "Love, Ire, and Song" wasn't nearly as good as it should have been, either.

My End of Year List

I just got Fios and so in my whizzing around the internet, I realized there are only two days left in 2008 in which I can have my end of the year list MEAN ANYTHING! (Also there are only two days left in 2008 period.)

I'm working on it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Right Away, Great Captain! - The Eventually Home

November 23, 2008
For Fans of: Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine
Indie, Singer-Songwriter

A recent feature on Andy Hull, singer and songwriter of Right Away, Great Captain! revealed that the 22 year old spent his birthday this year pushing his written song count to over one thousand. Given that staggering statistic, one wonders what his quality control process is like. Are the ten songs that make up RAGC’s sophomore album, The Eventually Home, the ten best songs he wrote for the album? Are there tens (hundreds?) of others that complete the story of our betrayed, dejected, and previously shipwrecked protagonist? More importantly, are the rest of his songs this damn good? While the obsessive collector in me suffers through that thought process, the realist enjoys The Eventually Home for what it is: an outstanding addition to Hull’s already impressive catalogue.

On Home, Hull continues the story of 2006’s The Bitter End: the story of a sailor, shipwrecked and now on an insanity-induced mission to kill his family back home. Aside from an occasional piano or electric guitar, and the full-band arrangement of “I Am a Vampire,” Home, in true confessional style, features only Hull’s vocals and acoustic guitar. Many of his guitar parts are simple— “Devil Dressed in Blue” contains only five chords—but the simplicity adds to the intimacy. Home can be frenetic and heavy (emotional climax and penultimate track “I Am a Vampire”) or folksy and dark (opener “Down to Your Soul”). Hull’s timbre always matches the mood of the track; his tortured screams midway through “I Am a Vampire” are complimented by his haunting “I am going to commit familicide the first chance I get” desperation on “Once Like You.” The story behind Home takes a few listens to grasp—there are always a few “what the hell is he talking about?” moments with Andy Hull—but the eventual understanding leads to even deeper enjoyment.

Of course, The Eventually Home comprises at most, one one-hundredth of Hull’s canon. It’s difficult for me not to see the songs in that context and I have a feeling I will continue to do so until he releases a bad batch of songs. With Manchester Orchestra’s new full length due in Spring 2009, at least one more Right Away, Great Captain! album on the distant horizon (the RAGC story is reportedly a trilogy), and who knows what other projects he’s got planned, Hull will have ample opportunities to prove me wrong. I have a feeling he won’t.

Listen here

An Introduction

About two weeks ago, Keegan or Greg or someone asked me if I had a blog. I said no and that I saw no need for one. Things have begun to look a little different after two weeks, the immense free time winter break allows for, and a full length CD full of songs from LazyTown.

Blog round one is go!